Face


2h 4m 2000

Brief Synopsis

Shortly after her mother's funeral, meek and mild-mannered Masako has an unprecedented violent clash with her sister. In a fit of fury, Masako strangles and kills her. Masako's immediate reaction is to contemplate suicide, but her fear of the karmic consequences prevent her from doing so. When the police begin investigating the death, she steals the cash donated by the funeral guests and flees to Osaka, which is overrun with refugees from the 1995 Kobe earthquake. There she takes a job in a fleabag hotel run by a debt-ridden gambler. When he is found murdered, she flees again, and through a stranger she meets on a train ends up working in a tiny karaoke bar where she becomes part of a grown-up extended family. On the run, Masako's odyssey forces her to discovers inner resources she had no idea she possessed.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Black Comedy
Crime
Foreign
Release Date
2000

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 4m

Synopsis

Shortly after her mother's funeral, meek and mild-mannered Masako has an unprecedented violent clash with her sister. In a fit of fury, Masako strangles and kills her. Masako's immediate reaction is to contemplate suicide, but her fear of the karmic consequences prevent her from doing so. When the police begin investigating the death, she steals the cash donated by the funeral guests and flees to Osaka, which is overrun with refugees from the 1995 Kobe earthquake. There she takes a job in a fleabag hotel run by a debt-ridden gambler. When he is found murdered, she flees again, and through a stranger she meets on a train ends up working in a tiny karaoke bar where she becomes part of a grown-up extended family. On the run, Masako's odyssey forces her to discovers inner resources she had no idea she possessed.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Black Comedy
Crime
Foreign
Release Date
2000

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 4m

Articles

Junji Sakamoto's Face on DVD


This odd Japanese film is technically a crime picture but comes off as more of an eccentric, insightful women's film. A dowdy recluse becomes a fugitive from the law, an experience that ironically opens up her life to experiences she'd never have known otherwise. The key to the picture is its leading lady Naomi Fujiyama's entirely self-effacing performance. Known as one of Japan's top stage actors, Fujiyama holds our attention with her clumsy attempts to fit into the world while on the run from a murder charge.

Synopsis: Sullen and withdrawn 'ugly' elder sister Masako toils endlessly with mending chores in her widowed mother's dry cleaning shop, seething with hatred for her flashy younger sister Yukari, who visits only for free laundry services. When mother dies and Yukari persists in her abuse, Masako cracks up and strangles her. She flees and takes up a number of identities and odd jobs, meeting people as she goes. To her surprise Masako finds people to be kind and helpful in general (although she's sexually abused more than once) and she blossoms as a personality, even to the extent of becoming a popular bar hostess like her murdered sister.

On the surface Face is a rather benign version of old films noir about desperate and guilty fugitives, such as Fritz Lang's fate-obsessed Scarlet Street. For Masako, being a wanted murderess has its torments, as she tries to kill herself at least once and is frequently miserable. But she was always miserable before, and being forced out on her own puts her into the flow of life.

Isamu Uno's original story becomes a curiously humane script in the hands of Junji Sakamoto. A desperate Masako tries to turn herself in but is instead raped by an unemployed trucker. Ironically, that's just what Masako's dead sister cruelly prescribed for her bad attitude, and Masako finds herself stimulated by the experience. She finds employment (or, more accurately, jobs find her) in the depressed corners of cities. She's a maid in a 'joy hotel' until police attention sets her off running once again. Her prospects bloom when she takes a position helping out in a neighborhood bar owned by a lonely woman and her discouraged ex-Yakuza brother. After behaving like a slug for so many years, Masako becomes a cheerful barmaid, banging a tambourine completely out of rhythm during Karaoke sessions. "So what?" she chirps happily, "No one cares."

Masako essentially gets a life, learning to ride a bicycle like a normal person and in some ways taking the place of her murdered sister -- who returns occasionally in guilty memories. Nothing's perfect, as Masako finds herself briefly sold to a lovesick married bar patron. Sordid realities don't deter her essential spirit, however, and at one point she states that she likes people with problems. She even falls in love with a young man (recently downsized, as are most of the men she meets) and enjoys the experience of feeling radiant and beautiful.

Alas, even though she has a good instinct for when to move on, the Television publicity around her case finally closes in on her. Always moving farther away from her crime, she eventually takes a ferry to a tiny island and gets a start on another life caring for an old woman. When her face shows up on the news, the friendly police that have been so grateful for her mending skill start a dragnet, and on such a small island there's really no place to hide.

Director Junji Sakamoto gives us a vivid portrait of the edges of modern Japan without imposing a fatalistic tone or a cynical viewpoint; with a few exceptions Masako finds that a plain girl wandering in lonely streets will not be without friends. But her twisted predicament is rich in irony. Once she was an embittered malcontent refusing human contact, but in her flight she forms more than a few meaningful relationships. The lady who runs the bar truly considers her a sister, and the jobless man she loves is sufficiently moved to forget his vendetta against the company that fired him. In the place of show-off stylistics, the picture is packed with interesting little details that only take on meaning afterwards, like the fun-fair "duck race" attraction that seems a metaphor for the mainstream rat-race that Sakamoto's unemployeds have avoided.

Image Entertainment distributes Home Vision Entertainment discs now, but the company's commitment to quality has not changed. Face (sometimes known as Kao) is presented in a flawless enhanced transfer with excellent color. The rich audio track is in Dolby 5.1. The one extra is a trailer, and critic Chuck Stephens' factually informed liner notes offer a number of analytical insights, especially regarding Masako's stubbornly affirmative approach to life.



For more information about Face, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order Face, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
Junji Sakamoto's Face On Dvd

Junji Sakamoto's Face on DVD

This odd Japanese film is technically a crime picture but comes off as more of an eccentric, insightful women's film. A dowdy recluse becomes a fugitive from the law, an experience that ironically opens up her life to experiences she'd never have known otherwise. The key to the picture is its leading lady Naomi Fujiyama's entirely self-effacing performance. Known as one of Japan's top stage actors, Fujiyama holds our attention with her clumsy attempts to fit into the world while on the run from a murder charge. Synopsis: Sullen and withdrawn 'ugly' elder sister Masako toils endlessly with mending chores in her widowed mother's dry cleaning shop, seething with hatred for her flashy younger sister Yukari, who visits only for free laundry services. When mother dies and Yukari persists in her abuse, Masako cracks up and strangles her. She flees and takes up a number of identities and odd jobs, meeting people as she goes. To her surprise Masako finds people to be kind and helpful in general (although she's sexually abused more than once) and she blossoms as a personality, even to the extent of becoming a popular bar hostess like her murdered sister. On the surface Face is a rather benign version of old films noir about desperate and guilty fugitives, such as Fritz Lang's fate-obsessed Scarlet Street. For Masako, being a wanted murderess has its torments, as she tries to kill herself at least once and is frequently miserable. But she was always miserable before, and being forced out on her own puts her into the flow of life. Isamu Uno's original story becomes a curiously humane script in the hands of Junji Sakamoto. A desperate Masako tries to turn herself in but is instead raped by an unemployed trucker. Ironically, that's just what Masako's dead sister cruelly prescribed for her bad attitude, and Masako finds herself stimulated by the experience. She finds employment (or, more accurately, jobs find her) in the depressed corners of cities. She's a maid in a 'joy hotel' until police attention sets her off running once again. Her prospects bloom when she takes a position helping out in a neighborhood bar owned by a lonely woman and her discouraged ex-Yakuza brother. After behaving like a slug for so many years, Masako becomes a cheerful barmaid, banging a tambourine completely out of rhythm during Karaoke sessions. "So what?" she chirps happily, "No one cares." Masako essentially gets a life, learning to ride a bicycle like a normal person and in some ways taking the place of her murdered sister -- who returns occasionally in guilty memories. Nothing's perfect, as Masako finds herself briefly sold to a lovesick married bar patron. Sordid realities don't deter her essential spirit, however, and at one point she states that she likes people with problems. She even falls in love with a young man (recently downsized, as are most of the men she meets) and enjoys the experience of feeling radiant and beautiful. Alas, even though she has a good instinct for when to move on, the Television publicity around her case finally closes in on her. Always moving farther away from her crime, she eventually takes a ferry to a tiny island and gets a start on another life caring for an old woman. When her face shows up on the news, the friendly police that have been so grateful for her mending skill start a dragnet, and on such a small island there's really no place to hide. Director Junji Sakamoto gives us a vivid portrait of the edges of modern Japan without imposing a fatalistic tone or a cynical viewpoint; with a few exceptions Masako finds that a plain girl wandering in lonely streets will not be without friends. But her twisted predicament is rich in irony. Once she was an embittered malcontent refusing human contact, but in her flight she forms more than a few meaningful relationships. The lady who runs the bar truly considers her a sister, and the jobless man she loves is sufficiently moved to forget his vendetta against the company that fired him. In the place of show-off stylistics, the picture is packed with interesting little details that only take on meaning afterwards, like the fun-fair "duck race" attraction that seems a metaphor for the mainstream rat-race that Sakamoto's unemployeds have avoided. Image Entertainment distributes Home Vision Entertainment discs now, but the company's commitment to quality has not changed. Face (sometimes known as Kao) is presented in a flawless enhanced transfer with excellent color. The rich audio track is in Dolby 5.1. The one extra is a trailer, and critic Chuck Stephens' factually informed liner notes offer a number of analytical insights, especially regarding Masako's stubbornly affirmative approach to life. For more information about Face, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order Face, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 2000

Released in United States 2001

Released in United States August 2001

Released in United States June 2001

Released in United States May 2000

Released in United States on Video October 4, 2005

Released in United States September 2000

Festival (in competition) September 21-30, 2000.

Shown at Cannes International Film Festival May 10-21, 2000.

Shown at Edinburgh International Film Festival (Eyes of the World) August 12-26, 2001.

Shown at New Directors/New Films in New York City March 23 - April 8, 2001.

Shown at Rotterdam International Film Festival (Critics' Choice) January 24 - February 4, 2001.

Shown at San Sebastian International Film

Shown at Sydney Film Festival June 8-22, 2001.

Released in United States 2000

Released in United States 2001 (Shown at New Directors/New Films in New York City March 23 - April 8, 2001.)

Shown at Toronto International Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema) September 7-16, 2000.

Released in United States 2001 (Shown at Rotterdam International Film Festival (Critics' Choice) January 24 - February 4, 2001.)

Released in United States May 2000 (Shown at Cannes International Film Festival May 10-21, 2000.)

Released in United States June 2001 (Shown at Sydney Film Festival June 8-22, 2001.)

Released in United States August 2001 (Shown at Edinburgh International Film Festival (Eyes of the World) August 12-26, 2001.)

Released in United States September 2000 (Festival (in competition) September 21-30, 2000.)

Released in United States September 2000 (Shown at Toronto International Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema) September 7-16, 2000.)

Released in United States on Video October 4, 2005